Like all New Englanders, James Taylor loves road trips. “My favorite thing is to miss my home when I’m gone,” sings the 67-year-old Massachusetts native on the bluesy “Stretch of Highway,” a cut from Before the World, his first album of originals in more than 10 years.
He also digs staying put, and on his latest, the soothing folk-rocker finds peace where he can, singing with characteristic ease. The furthest Taylor wanders is “Far Afghanistan,” a Middle Eastern-flavored rumination on soldiers and their gods. He explores another sort of spirituality on “Angels of Fenway,” an acoustic hymn to the Boston Red Sox. It’s corny enough to be buttered and sold in the grandstands, but Taylor is at his best when he brings his fuddy-duddy charm.
On the Sting-assisted title track, after acknowledging man’s inability to comprehend the universe, Taylor asks a lover, “Will you come away?” With “Montana,” he offers one possible destination. Paradise may be out of reach, but after decades of soul-searching, he’s still enjoying the ride.